An early look: Gamecocks' defense in 2013

Projecting the depth chart for next season

GoGamecocks staff reportsDecember 18, 2012 

South Carolina linebacker Cedrick Cooper (18) celebrates a stop on a kickoff after a Gamecock touchdown in the third quarter of their game against East Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Defensive tackle

DEPARTURES: Byron Jerideau

Projected 2013 depth chart

DT1
... Gerald Dixon Jr.
... Phillip Dukes

DT2
... Kelcy Quarles
... J.T. Surratt

What should happen

1. The good news is that USC has four guys coming back who all played in 2012. Kelcy Quarles is a lock at one starting spot. Gerald Dixon Jr. should get the first shot at the other tackle.

The uncertainties

1. There are no returning defensive tackles besides the above four players. The Gamecocks have one committed for this class - Kelsey Griffin - so keeping its guys healthy will again be of high importance in 2013.

2. Byron Jerideau is gone after one year of service. The Gamecocks again will be looking for a "push guy" like they had in former standout Travian Robertson.

Defensive end

DEPARTURES: Devin Taylor, Aldrick Fordham

Projected 2013 depth chart

DE1
... Chaz Sutton
... Gerald Dixon
... Deon Green

DE2
... Jadeveon Clowney
... Darius English

What should happen

1. Jadeveon Clowney returns for what is expected to be his final season with the Gamecocks. He'll anchor the line again and try to break the school sack record he set this year.

2. Chaz Sutton will be a senior and should take over at Devin Taylor's old spot opposite Clowney. Sutton is second this season with five sacks - not bad for someone coming off the bench.

3. The Gamecocks liked Darius English enough to play him in two games this year. It looks like the team will find a way to make this a redshirt year. He should be a top backup in 2013.

The uncertainties

1. Gerald Dixon and Deon Green are the top returning options as backups but don't have a lot of experience. Dixon played some this year and had one sack.

3. USC has six commitments who play defensive end, including a junior college transfer in Alfy Hill, a former Alabama signee. Hill will do his best to earn consideration for playing time. Some of the defensive end pledges could start out at other positions, much the way Mason Harris switched to linebacker when he arrived.

Linebacker

DEPARTURES: Reginald Bowens; Damario Jeffery; Quin Smith; Shaq Wilson; Chaun Gresham

Projected 2013 depth chart

LB1
... Kaiwan Lewis
... Mason Harris

LB2
... Cedrick Cooper
... T.J. Holloman

What should happen

1. As a sophomore, Cedrick Cooper will be the old man of the group. He was one of former defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s favorites last preseason but didn’t pick up the defensive schemes well enough to play as a true freshman. Cooper is mostly a special teams guy this year, but he will get a chance to be a starter in 2013.

2. Kaiwan Lewis has played in 10 games, mostly on special teams. He has the size (6-0, 220) and work ethic to be a strong candidate for a starting job. Steve Spurrier in the preseason mentioned Lewis as someone who stood out in scrimmage work.

The uncertainties

1. With four senior starters gone, anything could happen as the depth chart takes shape.

2. Mason Harris, recruited as a defensive end, has played in five games this year.

3. T.J. Holloman, who also played quarterback and receiver in high school, is an athletic guy who could be in the mix in 2013.

4. USC will sign a highly rated linebacker in Larenz Bryant. He could see the field as a freshman with a strong summer.

Spur

DEPARTURE: DeVonte Holloman

Projected 2013 depth chart
... Jordan Diggs
... Sharrod Golightly

What should happen

1. Jordan Diggs was recruited to take over the spur spot when DeVonte Holloman left. Diggs' time should come in 2013.

The uncertainties

1. Coaches like experience, and Sharrod Golightly will be a junior. Golightly emerged as the spur backup in 2012 but mostly played on special teams. He'll have to beat out Diggs in the spring and fall.

2. Marcquis Roberts missed 2011 with a shoulder injury and 2012 after hurting his knee. Can he stay healthy enough to compete in 2013?

Cornerback

DEPARTURES: Akeem Auguste, David Wilkins

Projected 2013 depth chart

CB1
... Victor Hampton
... Ahmad Christian

CB2
... Jimmy Legree
... Chaz Elder
... Chris Moody

What should happen

1. Victor Hampton was solid for most of 2012 and is a lock to be a starter in 2013.

2. Jimmy Legree will be a senior with experience and will at least contend for the other starting spot.

The uncertainties

1. Ahmad Christian and Legree struggled at times, especially in the second half of the season.

2. Chaz Elder should get a chance to compete for playing time. He was an option in 2012 but is on track to redshirt.

3. Coaches liked the transition Chris Moody made from high school quarterback to college corner.

4. Ronnie Martin will join the Gamecocks two years later than expected, taking the junior college route. He could be ready to compete for a role.

Safety

DEPARTURES: D.J. Swearinger, Jared Shaw

Projected 2013 depth chart

SS
... Brison Williams
... Kyle Fleetwood

FS
... T.J. Gurley
... Kadetrix Marcus

What should happen

1. Brison Williams returns as a junior and will be a starter again.

2. T.J. Gurley should get the first look at D.J. Swearinger's safety spot, if Gurley is fully recovered from a knee injury. Gurley earned the start there as a true freshman when Swearinger sat out for a suspension.

The uncertainties

1. Kadetrix Marcus will be a junior and have a chance for more playing time at safety in 2013. Most of his snaps in 2012 have been on special teams.

2. Kyle Fleetwood, who played alongside Mike Davis in high school, is redshirting this year but will look to compete next season.

3. Besides walk-on Kenny Robinson, who will be a junior, there are no returning safeties on the roster.

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